College Care Packages Provide Encouragement, Comfort, Link to Home

While most kids are excited to go away to college, the experience—especially at first—can be difficult. It’s not unusual for students to feel homesick or to miss familiar things.

Care packages—filled with a college student’s favorite things and words of encouragement—can help make a big difference. And while the packages don’t have to be large, they can have a huge impact—both for the senders as well as the receivers.

“Students love receiving these packages; I’ve heard from many students and even graduates who tell me how meaningful the experience was,” said Sam Taylor, campus and community outreach coordinator, Memorial Park Church. “Not only are the packages a source of encouragement and a connection to their home church, but it gives them something to look forward to.”

For more than a decade, Memorial Park Church (MPC) congregation members have been assembling packages to send to students who leave for college. Church members sign up to create a care package and are given a student’s name and school. While it’s up to them to fill the package, the church does provide a list of suggested items.

“The packages contain everything from snacks to candy to microwave popcorn and Post-it® Notes, and a lot of people put in gift cards,” Taylor said. “We give the senders the school name so they can look up the address to see what’s nearby in terms of restaurants or stores so they can tailor it to where the kids are. We also encourage them to write a note of encouragement, or send a family photo, or add some kind of personal touch.”

This fall, Memorial Park Church sent out close to 70 packages, and they will do another mailing in spring. Taylor estimates that more than 1,000 packages have been sent to students connected with the church over the years.

“Getting a handpicked package of things from home can be comforting and really encouraging,” he said, noting that the packages are sent to any students whose families request it. “It can feel really abrupt to go off to college and not hear from your home church until you come back, and these packages let them know that there are people who really care about them and who are thinking of them and praying for them. This can be really helpful especially in a student’s first year or if they are going further from home.”

Some parents of college-bound students have found that creating care packages can become a social event as well. When Amy Wilks’ oldest child headed to Penn State, she and her friends started getting together for care package parties.

“We'd all bring a few items, lay them out on a table, and put together the packages—usually for finals weeks but also sometimes for mid-terms or holidays,” Wilks explained. “Along with our own kids, there were usually a couple of extra boxes for international students or other students in need.

“Often we'd decorate the boxes, and after putting together the care packages, we all would share a potluck meal together,” she continued. “It was so much fun.”

While most of her friend’s children, and Wilk’s oldest child have now graduated, she still has two in college; one at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and one at Penn State. “I still send care packages, as well as a little monthly something to all three of my kids, like Starbucks’ gift cards or warm socks, just to let them know that I'm thinking of them,” she said.

When Victoria Santora Entwistle’s two children went off to college, she and a group of other moms decided to meet monthly to put together specially themed care packages for their kids.

“We are a really close-knit group; about 10 of us were always ‘team moms’ for every sport, we all volunteered in the schools, and we wanted to find a way to stay connected while all of our kids were scattering,” said Entwistle. “So we decided to get together once a month to create care packages with different themes every month.

“Of course, these meetings came with a sufficient amount of wine and snacks, so it was also very social for us,” she laughed.

The group filled boxes with holiday-themed items, as well as created study break boxes containing pajamas, comfy socks and granola bars to keep the kids going through exams.

“We also sent wellness boxes with cough drops, tissues, hand sanitizer, lip balm, protein bars and more; things they wouldn’t buy for themselves,” said Entwistle. “And every box had a special touch, like a note of encouragement and love—sometimes that was a poem, or something funny, or a picture of the moms all together.”

According to Entwistle, all of the students were appreciative, sharing their boxes on Snapchat and other social media. “One time we were late, and we heard about it,” she laughed. “Even kids who we didn’t think were that gung-ho about it were asking, ‘Where's the box?’”

Care Package Tips

Having spent so much time perfecting care packages, Taylor has some advice for those parents with first-time college-bound kids.

“We have learned not to send scented candles or anything with a strong scent; the whole box will smell, and it can make food and snacks taste strange,” he said. “It’s also not good to send liquid, and to make sure that you protect fragile items, like mugs, in bubble wrap.”

He adds that it’s important to know when the student will be on campus, as dorm mailrooms often close during school breaks, which can vary from school to school.

Entwistle suggests trying to focus on healthier options, as kids tend to eat a lot of junk food while away.

“You also want to give them things that can be stored in their rooms and don’t have to be refrigerated,” she said. “Over time, we learned what they liked and didn’t like, such as particular brands of protein bars or oatmeal, but in general, kids appreciate any gift or connection to home. And if you can add extra, they can share with roommates or others in the dorm.”

Though Entwistle’s children have now graduated—Emily from the University of South Carolina in 2018 and Fordham Law in 2021, and Frank from USC in 2020—she offer her expertise to other families whose kids are going to college for the first time.

“I’ve had a number of people reach out and ask how to get a care package group together—how much stuff they need, how to organize it, and what to spend,” she said. “I’m glad they want to do this because we had a really great time doing it, and it created a lot of fun memories.

“It’s something we really looked forward to, and our kids did, too,” she added. “I hope that they want to continue the tradition when they have kids.”

114 views0 comments